Mr Martin Klinke,
orthopaedic surgeon, The London Foot and Ankle Centre, Bupa Cromwell Hospital
ski boots make it considerably safer to ski than ever before. However,
fractures to feet and ankles continue to occur when skiiers find themselves in
specific situations. Mr Martin Klinke discusses these types of ski injuries and
the treatments needed for a succesful recovery.
Ankle and foot winter sports injuries
terms of foot and ankle injury risk, it is now considerably safer to ski
compared with stepping onto a football pitch. Overall, ski injury rates have
come down during the past decade with, on average, just over two injuries per
1,000 ski days*. A major factor, particularly for the safety of the foot and
ankle, is improvement to the ski boot, which now provides far better protection
than ever before.
Snow-boarder’s foot injuries
However, at the
London Foot and Ankle Centre, we still see several injuries which affect winter
sports enthusiasts. The so called “snow-boarder’s fracture” is a rotational
injury that usually impacts the front snowboard foot. The fracture is not
always visible on a normal X-ray and people sometimes even return home and to work, functioning
fairly well, but experiencing pain. The affected area is a part of the talus
bone, located above the heel, deep within the ankle and is known medically as
the lateral process of talus.
If this injury is diagnosed early enough, treatment is simple and very
effective, with the insertion of a small (surgical) screw to stabilise the
joint. Left untreated, the injury can eventually lead to arthritic changes
within the back of the foot.
Ankle injuries from ski jumping
Another injury we
see occurs when a skier jumps and lands on an uneven surface, resulting in a
dramatic reduction in speed, a forward jolt and sudden contraction of muscles.
This causes an injury to the muscle that runs down the outside of the lower leg
and helps to rotate the ankle outwards. This is known medically as a dislocation
of the peroneus longus. Most often, this injury cannot be detected on an X-ray,
but by using an ultrasound or MRI scan, a specialist can detect this injury
easily. This injury can also become a chronic source of pain and weakness in
the ankle joint area.
Other winter sports ankle
We do still see
ankle fractures and it is quite often after the skis come off that these sorts
of injuries take place. After a long morning on the slopes, when you walk to a
café in your ski boots, the surface is often slippery and your feet take some
time to adjust to a different movement process and surface. This is when slips
and falls resulting in fractures often happen.
The importance of well-fitting ski boots in preventing
your ski boots fit correctly and tightly to avoid injury. I recently saw a
patient who had a swollen ankle from a previous injury; he told me he had to
keep his ski boots loose because it was too painful to wear them tightly.
Fortunately, this did not result in further injury, but it could well have
done. Loose ski boots will not offer the protection you need and potentially
create a safety hazard.